Vulgaria essentially announces it’s mission statement in the title and then in case you didn’t pick up on the not-so-subtle pun, throws in a pre-credits warning to announce what you will be watching is deeply offensive and in no way intended for children. So, you’re looking at wall-to-wall shock humor that will touch on everything from beastiality, to pop-candy assisted fellatio, and pretty well anything else that can get moist or be jammed up something else. Thankfully, director Pang Ho-Cheung’s ode to bad taste is also funny more often than it is merely nauseating and mercifully never gets as graphic visually as it does through dialogue. The ambitions aren’t high, but the filth is delightfully obscene and with this type of movie, what more can you really expect?
The film is about a Hong Kong film producer played by Chapman To who makes a living in sleaze, while trying to live his days as a relatively nice and quiet man. Ho-Cheung structures his story around To’s Q&A with a film class. When a student asks what he has been required to sacrifice in the name of his art, he delves into the sordid tale of his latest production. It starts with a meeting with former (and possibly current) gangster Brother Tyrannosaurus who invites the producer to a dinner of cow vaginas and offers sex with a mule for desert. Over that delightful evening, he offers to finance a remake of the favorite soft-core porno of his youth in the hopes of resurrecting the career of his favorite porn star. To agrees and then struggles to get the movie made by CGIing the head of the ancient adult starlet onto the body of his possibly teenage girlfriend. During those adventures, he also engages in a child custody battle with his wife, deals with a sexual lawsuit from a particularly idiotic former employee, and even tries to talk an insurance company into product placement in a film in which their company would finance Al Qaeda. So yeah, it’s that kind of movie.
Lead actor Chapman To is a big reason for the film’s filthy success. Never once does he mug or play up the ridiculous scenes he’s required to anchor (well, not until the end credit montage anyways). He merely goes along with the dirty dealings with subtle comedy charm and as much dignity as is possible to squeeze into this sort of production. The rest of the actors follow his lead and what’s perhaps most surprising about Vulgaria is how low key the entire ordeal feels. Director Pang Ho-Cheung has doled out his share of graphic content to horror and crime movies before, but knows rubbing his audiences nose in the kind of content whipped up in Vulgaria would be a mistake. The film easily could have fallen into the Troma school of trash comedy with bloody and bodily fluids flowing liberally in the name of laughter. Instead Ho-Cheung has his characters talk about disgusting things and only rarely do we see them. There’s a hand-job Wii game that could have been a visual gag along with the soft core porno movie, but the filmmaker shows restraint and possibly even a little good taste (well, that might be going too far) in letting his audience imagine all of the disgusting imagery he wants to put in their heads.
That decision keeps the movie from being overbearing and instead it plays like a far more entertaining version of the Hollywood inside-baseball comedy What Just Happened with a filthy mind. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still one of the rudest and crudest movies you’ll see this year, but thankfully pitched at just the right side of vulgarity. Not all of the gags work of course, particularly the jokes about the Hong Kong filmmaking industry and the difference between Chinese and Hong Kong culture. But that’s inevitably an issue when any comedy travels outside its borders of origin and is to be expected. Luckily for Ho-Cheung and co,, body fluid humor is universal and even Western audiences can get that mixture of laughs and revulsion he’s so happy to dole out. Vulgaria is hardly a new classic, even in the shock comedy realm. Yet, it is something definitely worth checking out for anyone who likes to feel a little naughty while giggling in the dark. Might not want to make this a date movie though. That seems like a mistake.